Olé!

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

 

One of the highest accolades a bull fighter can receive for a valiant well fought fight is una oreja, an ear of the bull he killed. Sometimes, for a particularly well fought battle, dos orejas or two ears of the bull he killed are given. More rarely than that two ears and the tail is granted to the bull fighter. It is quite rare and a real honor to witness a bull fight in which the latter two awards are bestowed. However, the most rare and amazing event to witness at a bull fight is when both the bull and the matador have fought exceptionally bravely and the crowd petitions for an Indulto or pardon. When a bull is pardoned, he is lead from the bull ring and lives out the rest of his life on the farm of its owner as a stud.

Family Photo from our Seats

Family Photo from our Seats

I was excited to have the opportunity to see a bull fight with my family during the Feria de Abril in Seville, Spain. It is, to me, a must see. My son had been to his first bull fight the week before and was enthralled by it. But, April 13th in La Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla was special. We arrived early to take in the atmosphere. Everyone dresses very nicely for this event, and we did too. So, we took a lot of photographs before it had even begun. There are so many things to notice. Seat cushions are for sale or rent (which benefited the Spanish Red Cross), as the seating is on brick and cement. Many folks purchase snacks and drinks before they enter the Maestranza.

We also immediately noticed that there was no jumbotron. No announcers. Not much room to move once seated. But, there were two vendors walking through the seats yelling what they were selling, one had roasted almonds and one had drinks. There was a decent size band on the upper level across from the box where the dignitaries sit. We were seated in the Sombra section, which is the shade side. We were happily on the side where most of the action took place. The opposite side of the ring was in full sun and was the Sol or sunny section.

Bullfight Bullcropped

The music began and the action followed almost immediately.  The first bull was not a very good fighter and the matador did not appear as polished as I’ve seen. My husband and kids were glued to the action. The third bull was better and so was the matador. He received dos orejas. I kept saying, “This is a great honor. I’m so glad we got to see this. This is relatively rare to see.” And etc. The next bull came out and he was fierce from the start. He and his torero performed very well, each one matching the other with moves and counter-moves. Pretty soon, it became obvious (to those who have seen bull fights before) that this was a special bull. The crowd began to wave white handkerchiefs. Those of us without them used the programs we had about the night’s bull fight. The whole place was waving and the matador walked over to the judge and he granted the indulto or pardon. Immediately, eight large light brown and white bulls were ushered into the ring. They patiently corralled the bull and then all walked back out of the ring. The crowd was cheering wildly. THIS was the pinnacle of bull fighting. We witnessed history. It was so thrilling. The matador received dos orejas (from a previously killed that night bull) and he walked around the ring, proudly holding up the ears and waving at the exuberant crowd. The owner of the bull also joined him in taking the lap around the ring. It was so awesome.

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

There were two more bulls, but the evening belonged to the Matador Manuel Escribano and the indultado (the pardoned bull), “Cobradiezmos.”

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was so much history, culture, passion and art that we all came away exhilarated by the experience. John was taken by the music which served to connect the three stages of the bull fights. It was so old fashioned. I felt like we were non-speaking extras in a movie, sitting quietly expectant until we were cheering and yelling, “Olé” on cue. There was no evidence that it was 2016, except for the cell phones we held up to take pictures of the spectacle. We thought we might have feelings of, “Oh, my gosh! I feel sorry for the bull!” but did not.  It was too ceremonial to feel that way. The prevailing thought was, “This was so cool!” And, of course, it was nice to focus on knowing that one of the bulls would be spending his remaining years out to stud on a farm.

Bullfight ring

 

Swienconka for Two?

The Real Butter Lamb

The Real Butter Lamb

My husband and I awoke to an empty house today. We think it might be the first time in over 20 years we haven’t had at least one of the kids here with us on Easter morning. We are fine with it. My husband is in his Polish food glory. I’m happy that I’m not staring down two candy-filled Easter baskets knowing that I’m going to end up losing the battle of willpower and diving in to them. It’s a happy empty nest.

Preparations for Easter or, in our case, a Polish Easter can take days. Hard boiling eggs, buying and cooking up the Polish sausage (the holiday variety, if we can get it around here. Side Note: Yes, we know about Ostrowski’s, but they do not use the same recipe as Redlinksi’s (in Buffalo, NY), which is my husband’s favorite, so we usually just get a decent stand in from Wegman’s.), getting the butter lamb (Side Note: We got a “REAL Butter Lamb this year!), getting the ham, getting the seedless rye bread, and that is the bare minimum for the Polish traditional meal of the day on Easter Sunday: Swienconka.*

The food for this meal is usually blessed. In the Buffalo area, churches are overflowing with folks bringing huge baskets, stuffed with everything for the swienconka to be blessed the Saturday before Easter. I’ve heard that at some churches, the priest has had to come out and do a mass blessing in the parking lots to all the folks trapped in the gridlock in their cars. Around here, our church has done the Blessing of the Food Mass but attendance is considerably lighter. In fact, the few times we’ve gone, there have been probably fewer than 30 baskets. This year, with just the two of us, we did not make it to have our food blessed. I often wonder how many years of blessing we can get out of, say, our salt and pepper shaker’s contents…I guess I would need to pay attention to how often I refill them during the year. Anyway, the lack of actual, current blessing, however, did not stop us from having the traditional meal. 

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

I was happy to not have to dye the eggs, buy candy, or decorate the house. Our daughter made it over to our house in time for church, which was nice. We got a nice Easter note from our son. My parents are having us over for Easter dinner. It’s a very happy empty nest, indeed.

 

*Swienconka – I do not know how to speak or write in Polish, so I’m using the word tweeted out by my sister-in-law, who will know better than I the ins and outs of Polish Easter words.

 

Family Traditions: Glue? Glitter? A Little of Both

The Delicious Fresh Turkey from Maple Lawn Farms

I am feeling so grateful and blessed for this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I am still silently giving thanks. Our son surprised us by coming home a day early, and we were all beyond thrilled. Alyssa was thrilled (though she didn't say so) because she finally had someone else to absorb our constant attention, and because she missed her brother. John and I were thrilled because the weather was supposed to be horrible the day Alex told us he was coming home, and because we also missed him. However, I was a little bothered by the fact that I had not had the chance to give the house its final cleaning before Alex came home. We also had planned to have our from scratch, family recipe beef and vegetable soup ready for him when he walked through the door. My mom was taking care of soup duty, so I could prepare for cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. So, the soup wasn't even at our house yet. Those two things, a clean, “company ready” house, and a special soup dinner don't sound like big deals. But, since Alyssa left for college, I tried to do at least those two things every time she came home, and especially when she came home for holidays. I wanted her to know how special it was to us that she was coming home. I am continuing this tradition with Alex's visits. However by the sound of it, neither kid has picked up on any of my attempts at tradition. Alyssa said, “Mom, Alex doesn't care if you vacuumed. He is just happy to be home.” He also knew the soup would not be ready a day early. And, while I still have a bit of a knot in my stomach at not having the picture perfect, June Cleaver welcome for him, he was happy. The soup on his second night home was delicious and loved by all, and I did finally vacuum the next day, too.

Our Traditional Thanksgiving Feast
 

This new information does not deter nor disappoint me. I think having a few, well-placed, nicely-timed family traditions are part of the glue that keeps families happy and together. They are also that little something special, like glitter, that says, “You are loved!” “And, we are happy you're here!” I have wonderful memories of clean houses and special dinners for holidays from my parents and grandparents.
So, I know that, eventually, our kids will delight in these little acts of love. And, that these traditions will be meaningful to them when they come and visit us with their families.

 

Catching Some Summer Fun

 

I think summer went from fast paced action to almost a full stop in the span of three days. The weather is acting like fall is near (or already here), people have started talking about back-to-school shopping, and my work schedule is sputtering and fizzling, as all the summer swim leagues have wrapped up their short, but hectic seasons. August is hours away, and I feel like I am just now getting to quickly plan and do all the things I enjoy doing in the summer before it's too late.

 

One of my big summer things is seeing “My Summer People” AKA people I met through summer swim team, who I usually/mostly only see in the summer. Last weekend, we got together with some of the swim team friends, who we used to spend hours and hours with every summer while our kids were growing up, and had a blast. I made my tambourine playing debut with a live band in front of people (other than my kids and husband). It was so fun, and no, I was not offered any contracts for my future tambourine playing.

 

Lois, Eileen and Me with Freezer Burn
 

I have a couple other folks I want to see that I need to call right away, before summer is really over. I also would like to have at least one more crab feast. We will probably cover this summer favorite when my brother comes to town. And, I wouldn't mind a few more days of sitting by the pool and reading a good book. I would also enjoy one more trip to Ocean City, but I'm not sure when we can fit that in the schedule. Hope all of you are making the most of the last few weeks of summer vacation. The clock is ticking.

 

A Visit to Fenway Park

Inside the Park Before the Game

 

I'm not among those who seek to visit many or all of the baseball stadiums they can. I don't have a “bucket list” with the name of a particular stadium to go to on it. I know there are folks who have both a list and a desire. But, I like the stadium and the team in my area, and I think we have a pretty awesome team and a very awesome stadium. The Baltimore Orioles play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Plenty of folks travel to Baltimore to catch a game at Oriole Park. It's got great atmosphere, and it's a fun place.

Outside the Park Before the Game
 

John has really wanted to see a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park. So, he was thrilled when we finally had the opportunity to do so. It's a great old stadium, filled with an enthusiastic crowd of Sox-loving people. I was really not excited about going to the game, but I'm glad we did. It was fun and, while hard (for me) to cheer for the home team, it was neat to have the opportunity to see this stadium in person. We also got to sing “Sweet Caroline” with the whole stadium, which was a treat. And, what could be better? It was a give away night. We got replica World Series Championship rings. This commemorative ring give away brought folks to the game from far and wide and then excitedly tearing into the little boxes to wear them. Not us though. We just smiled and said, “Thank you.” Oh well, we would much rather have an Orioles World Series keepsake, but maybe we can sell these on EBay.

 

 

Date Night and a Battle of the Birds

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Eutaw Street (with the iconic Bromo Seltzer Tower in the background.)

 

I must say, John and I are in prime Empty Nest form. Primo formo. Top of our game. You get the idea. We took advantage of our ability to be foot loose and fancy free and decided at the last minute to go to the Orioles game tonight. The weather was perfect. The sunny and 80 degree day cooled off little by little. The forecast called for scattered showers, but we had only a little drizzle.

I made shrimp and scallops over pasta with our new favorite Victoria Marinara Sauce for dinner. We ate and then John checked out the ticket availability. He looked on StubHub! There were plenty of seats available, which was not surprising for the first night of Spring Break for many area kids. Fortunately for us, someone was dumping their tickets for less than half price. So, we got tickets down the third base line, just past third base in Row 16 super cheap. It was awesome.

 

The game was a lot of fun. John and I shared several memories of the fun times we had bringing the kids to games when they were very little. They were so cute, and they loved the games. They were both a little stunned the first time they heard the Charge! Cheer. They were also taken aback the first time the Orioles scored a run or hit a home run, and Camden Yards exploded with loud music, and fans cheering and dancing. Well, there was some cheering and some dancing tonight, but sadly, no runs for the O's. Or “dem O's,” as some uber local Baltimore fans say. They lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-0. But, we had a great time, despite the result.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

 

A New Year’s Day Thanksgiving Dinner

Here is a picture of the ready-for-the-oven dressing. It was very delicious. I only made a few modifications to the recipe shown.
I thought I was going to have a lot more lounging around time today, but I had a little “lack of Thanksgiving leftovers” bitterness to rectify. So, I made the complete Thanksgiving meal, including “the green stuff,” which is Watergate Salad — one of the staples in our holiday dinners. And, it was a delicious meal, if I do say so myself. Actually, everyone loved it, including my parents, who were also here for the Thanksgiving New Year's Day dinner. And, just like on Thanksgiving, I am having the post meal regret of too much dressing and potatoes (and gravy). I did not do really any snacking beforehand, and I was running around the kitchen to get it all ready, so hopefully I didn't do too much damage. I guess if I sink to the bottom of the pool tomorrow, I'll have my answer. We don't normally have such an elaborate feast on New Year's Day, but I'm grateful I was inspired (even though it was mostly inspiration due to bitterness) to make the effort. It was well worth it. I usually have a simple ham dinner without too many overboard extras. I also usually spend a good part of the afternoon adding all of the family birthdays, appointments, work commitments, and etc. that I already know about into my trusty “Week at a Glance” Day Timer. I will have to do that tonight, since I haven't had time yet this afternoon.

Well, sadly, we have already started the countdown to taking Alex back to school. His classes start so much earlier than Alyssa's do. So, that means I'm trying to stay ahead of the laundry, make sure he gets the home cooked meals he likes, and get some treats ready for him to take back. There is one loaf of Banana Bread in the freezer that has his name on it. So, that is a good start. There's no easing into the new year over here.

Let's eat!